When ‘About A Girl’ entered the American charts for Nirvana on 15 October 1994, it was a song with history. The Kurt Cobain composition had been on the band’s debut album Bleach in 1989, but towards the end of 1993, with MTV’s Unplugged series enticing more and more artists to perform acoustically, Nirvana filmed a performance for the show. It was released on the album MTV Unplugged In New York, and ‘About A Girl’ was its only single — posthumously for Cobain, who died six months earlier.
Less well known is the fact that an earlier live version, recorded in 1990 in Portland, Oregon, had been released as the b-side of the ‘Sliver’ single, although Cobain was decidedly unhappy with the band’s performance on it. The new version of ‘About A Girl’ climbed to No. 22 on the Hot 100, their highest ranking since ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ reached No. 6 in the States, early in 1992.
But ‘About A Girl’ became a rock radio anthem, topping the Modern Rock Tracks chart and reaching the top ten in Australia, Denmark and Finland. Other live versions of this staple of the band’s set included one from their performance at the Reading Festival, which came out on the Live At Reading album and DVD in 2009.
Chad Channing, Nirvana’s original drummer, who played on the studio version of’ ‘About A Girl,’ remembered that the title was as literal as could be. “Kurt was just playing the song and we were working it out,” he said. “I asked Kurt what the song was, and he was like, ‘Well, I don’t really know.’ Then I said, ‘Well, what’s it about?’ And he says, ‘It’s about a girl.’ I said, ‘Well, why don’t you just call it ‘About A Girl’?’ And he just kind of looked at me and smiled and said, ‘Okay.’ We went with that.”
The live ‘About A Girl’ is on MTV Unplugged In New York, which can be bought here.
Follow the official Nirvana Best Of playlist.